A Pearl Harbor Remembrance, Memories of an Unassuming Sailor.
The article below ‘How a Piece of Shrapnel Changed My Father’s Life‘ by John Stark, was first printed in 2013 and republished last year on the 75th anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor. We posted it on our blog several years ago but I came across it a day or two ago and as I reread John’s narrative about his dad, I felt it would be a worthwhile re-post today, the 76th anniversary of Pearl Harbor.
This is not just a Pearl Harbor commemorative, but a rare glimpse into the backstory of a man who lived privately with his experience, almost until the day he died.
There are very few Pearl Harbor survivors remaining. Those who are still alive have stunning stories to tell like Charles Lishman- 97, George Vandersluis- 101, and Joe Quercia- 95 in this recent piece published in The Fresno Bee.
Take a moment to read John Stark’s story below. You’ll be glad you did.
How a Piece of Shrapnel Changed My Father’s Life
posted by John Stark, May 21, 2014
An old photo album introduced me to a sailor at Pearl Harbor: my father, who kept his past to himself.
– Photos courtesy of John Stark –
Shortly before he died, my father showed me something I didn’t know he had. He kept it hidden in a shoebox. Opening the lid, he took out a jagged, baseball-size piece of black metal. It was part of a fragmentation bomb that had exploded alongside his ship at Pearl Harbor on the morning of Dec. 7, 1941. “I was standing on deck,” he told me. “The bomb’s blast knocked me over. This shrapnel went inches over my head.”
Sixteen days shy of his 21st birthday, my father, Clinton Stark, was serving aboard the U.S.S. New Orleans when the Japanese attacked the U.S. fleet. He never spoke to me about what he saw or felt that infamous day. I don’t think he ever shared those feelings with anyone.
In my mother’s 60-plus years of marriage to him, she said she only saw him shed tears on one occasion. It was when they went to Pearl Harbor to visit the U.S.S. Arizona memorial.
But after my father died in 2004 at age 84, I discovered another side of him.
From 1939 to 1941, he kept a photo album of his years stationed in Hawaii.
I took it home with me after my mother died in 2007. It sits on my dining room table. Made of rawhide, the album’s cover says “Cruise Album” on it. Below that is a brightly colored, raised depiction of the New Orleans, a heavy cruiser built at the Brooklyn Navy Yard in 1931.
The album is filled with black-and-white snapshots that my father took with an Eastman Kodak camera, a Folding Hawk-Eyes Model B. I have the camera, which is still in its original box, along with the instruction manual. I keep it on a bookshelf for all to see. Read More Here
John Stark has held top writing and editing positions at such magazines as Cooks’ Illustrated, Body + Soul and People. For 14 years, he was a feature writer and movie critic at the San Francisco Examiner/Chronicle. Follow John on Twitter @jrstark.
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